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The Harvard Anti-Torture Coalition

Archive for May 1st, 2007

Shameful, Pathetic, Inappropriate, Tasteless

Posted by stoptorture on 1st May 2007

I wanted to comment on a response to our protest, posted by a visitor to our friend Andrea Saenz’s blog. It is typical of a small number of comments or blog posts that have cropped up, from students who think our actions against the Attorney General were inappropriate and in poor taste. I should say, though, that this particular comment is extremely mild in comparison to some of the posts out there, many of which pitch personal and vileful attacks on some of the students involved. Click here , here , here and here for the most intelligent and thoughtful criticisms of fellow protester, Thomas Becker. To save myself further blogger’s breath, I thought it worthwhile to post a student’s comment and my reply below:

Disapproving HLS Student:

Sadly, it is the students of the law school who dropped the ball and not Gonzales. We acted like idiots and embarased the institution with this childish partisan demonstration. I thought this school was better than that, and can show respect for anyone who comes here. This is supposed to be an academic institution open to freedom and inviting to anyone who wants to come avail themselves of it. Especially prominenet governmental figures coming bach for a class reunion. This is shameful and pathetic. Posted by: | April 30, 2007 at 09:03 AM


The demonstration was not partisan. The only positions it took were against torture, indefinite detention, and the use of state power and the legal profession to subvert the rule of law. I would have demonstrated with the same vehemence against the Attorney General if he were a Democrat.

These are not partisan issues. They are issues of legality, morality, and professional ethics, and the AG has failed on all counts. While the architects of these criminal policies are most directly to blame — and in this case, they happen to be Republican — I also hold in contempt both the Democrats and Republicans who have not done everything within their political power to put an end to these policies. I vote in NJ, and Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both Democrats, voted for the Military Commissions Act. I published a letter in the Trenton Times renouncing my affiliation with the Democratic Party, and I can safely say that I will never vote for them again.

The use of torture is a violation of domestic, international, and humanitarian law. It applies to all state officials, red and blue. And all who sit by and watch in silence, whether they be public or private citizens, are acquiescing and playing their own small part in the web of complicity.

Furthermore, none of us ever said that the Attorney General did not have a right to come to his reunion. All we did was exercise our right to express that he was not welcome there. While we obviously cannot represent the sentiments of the whole school (some, like you, disagree with us), there are many others who do agree with us, and they have thanked us profusely for voicing that sentiment.

A very small minority of students have called our actions “shameful,” “pathetic,” “inappropriate,” or “tasteless.” One student expressed that this was the Attorney General’s “quiet time” and that we should respect it.My response is that creating policies that authorize the torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and indefinite detention of hundreds of human beings is worse than all the adjectives above. It is immoral and, most clearly, illegal.

The Attorney General should be prosecuted for war crimes. But as long as he remains Attorney General, and as long as the President remains in power, he will not be brought to justice. Therefore this was not an action to protest policy we simply disagree with — although we would have had a right to do that as well. As the children of the disappeared in Argentina said, at a time of impunity, when those responsible for the kidnapping and murder of their parents roamed free on the streets: “Where there is no justice, let there be shame.”

Finally, I would say to those students: “shameful,” “pathetic,” and “tasteless” is the sharing of drinks, smiles, and niceties with this man, while human beings continue to be severely harmed thanks to his policies, and the law in the most influential democracy in the world continues to be corrupted thanks to his actions. Shameful, pathetic, tasteless — and immoral, disgusting, and tragic is to sit in silence reading Constitutional Law while that man strolls through the library of your legal institution.

Posted in Activism, Human Rights | 26 Comments »